Thursday, November 4, 2010

Anglo-French Defence Cooperation: Last refuge of the scoundrel

Anglo-French Defence Cooperation: Last refuge of the scoundrel is defence collaboration (with apologies to Samuel Johnson)
November 4th, 2010

Faced with economic challenges the British and French Governments recently met and signed a treaty which had probably been under preparation since the summer to find any way to share defence resources without creating dependency between one another.

Anglo-French defence arrangements always seem to come to the fore when the chips are down, only to disolve when the situation picks up. Think about the 1960s and the development of the Jaguar aircraft for example. In the 1991 Gulf War the aircraft had more capability that the more-modern Tornado (laser designation for one) thoguh of course it was the first casualty of defence cuts. Also think of the Puma helicopter, dumped in favour of the Chinook etc.

The measures agreed between the UK and France include (bullet points below are directly from the UK MOD website - italicised comments those of the author):

• jointly developing a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) as a non-standing bilateral capability able to carry out a range of operations in the future whether acting bilaterally or through NATO, the EU or other coalition arrangements - this concept will be developed over the coming years;
Paper staff exercise. No cost. No commitment. Note timescale is 'coming years'

• building primarily on maritime task group co-operation around the French carrier Charles de Gaulle - the UK and France will aim to have, by the early 2020s, the ability to deploy a UK-French integrated carrier strike group incorporating assets owned by both countries;
As soon as 10 years away. It would seem to be that the RN will be providing air defence pickets and submarines to train as they lack CV capability in the coming years (if not already). No cost savings benefit. political statement though useful for training RN.

• developing joint military doctrine and training programmes;
Little cost. some joint training probably already occurs under NATO auspices.

• extending bilateral co-operation on the acquisition of equipment and technologies, for example in unmanned aerial systems, complex weapons, submarine technologies, satellite communications and research and technology;
Watchkeeper UAV program from Thales must feel like it has brought back from the dead given the hype around BAE System's Taranis this past Farnborough 2010. Collaboration on equipment procurement has, by rule of thumb, always taken longer, cost more, and been of dubious military utility - however the saving grace is that it insulates against political cancellation.

• aligning wherever possible our logistics arrangements - including providing spares and support to the new A400M transport aircraft;
Some cost savings once A400M is in service. I saw my first mockup of the A400M at Farnborough in 1990.

• developing a stronger defence industrial and technology base; and
A hardly substantial statement of intent.

• enhancing joint working to defend against emerging security concerns such as cyber security.
Surely one would want to work with the Americans on this - IT & France ??

So in summary the devil must be in the detail as the UK MOD makes no reference to joint sharing around the nuclear deterrent capability each nation possesses explicitly other than a passing reference to submarines (all RN submarines are nuclear) and strengthening R&T efforts.

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